Could he become the second Asian-trained player to compete in the NHL after Japanese goalkeeper Yutaka Fukufuji with the Los Angeles Kings? The Columbus Blue Jackets invited defenceman Ryo Hashimoto for next week’s camp at their practice facility.
On Monday the Blue Jackets named 28 players from ten different nations to the annual Prospect Development Camp where NHL teams traditionally invite prospects previously drafted – including Thomas Larkin, who aims to become the first Italian-trained NHLer – but also players who haven’t been drafted by an NHL team yet. One of them is Hashimoto.
The 21-year-old from the northern island of Hokkaido has spent the last three seasons playing in the Asia League with the Oji Eagles Tomakomai, the top level of hockey in his country. He debuted for the Japanese men’s national team as a 20-year-old participating in two IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I tournaments and the Olympic Qualification for Sochi 2014.
At the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Goyang, Korea, where Japan finished in third place behind Slovenia and Austria and tightly missed promotion to the top division, Hashimoto built a back pair with veteran Aaron Keller, a Canada-born defenceman who has been playing in Japan for 15 years.
UPDATE: On Tuesday the New York Islanders invited another Japanese, 19-year-old Yuri Terao, who represented his country in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B where he was voted Best Forward of the tournament with three goals and eight assists in five games.
This year’s prospects and pre-season camps of the 30 NHL teams are set to include players from at least 20 nations and four continents showing the growth of hockey talent worldwide. In NHL history players trained in 27 different countries have either played or been invited to pre-season or prospect camps by NHL teams.